Eva Bartlett breaks down the dizzying array of information surrounding the mounting humanitarian crisis in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta. With accusations abound, parsing the reality on the ground is becoming more challenging by the day.
by Eva Bartlett
Part 2 - UN Serial Censorship
In trying to relate Syria’s side of the story in the United Nations, Ambassador al-Ja’afari was initially prevented from doing so. In his subsequent address to the press, he noted: “The President of the Security Council, the Ambassador of Kuwait, acted irresponsibly today by trying to prevent me from speaking, while the meeting is on Syria. This irresponsible behavior coming from the President of the Security Council in a meeting allocated to the situation in Syria reveals also that Kuwait is not — the Kuwaiti delegation — is not up to the responsibility it is assuming as President of the Security Council, because this irresponsible behavior works against the rules and procedures of the Security Council. The shortage of the moral behavior of the Kuwaiti ambassador found a crystal-cut answer by the Russian ambassador, who corrected him and said you have no right whatsoever to prevent the Syrian ambassador from addressing the council.”
Censorship at the UN has happened previously. In early 2015, after interviewing the Syrian Ambassador, I wrote, quoting him: “The British ambassador cut me off one time while I was speaking. He said ‘you have exceeded four minutes.’ I said, ‘Who gave you the right to fix four minutes? I am a member of a concerned party, and I have the right to explain.’ To justify his wrongdoing, he also cut off the Iraqi ambassador after me. We were the only two ambassadors speaking at that session, and it was on Syria and Iraq. The issue was on terrorism in Syria and Iraq, and he cut off both of us after four minutes!”
In a subsequent article, I wrote of the repeated cuts to the Syrian Ambassador’s video and microphone feeds, also noting the attempted censorship of Syria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs: “In January, 2014, at the Geneva II conference on Syria in Montreux, Switzerland, Foreign Affairs Minister Walid Muallem was himself cut off by none other than the Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon. Pointing out the ridiculousness of the situation, Muallem noted: ‘You live in New York, I live in Syria. I have the right to give the Syrian version in this forum. After three years of suffering, this is my right. You spoke for 25 minutes. I need at least 30.’ While Ban interrupted Muallem’s speech, asking him to ‘wrap up in just one or two minutes,’ the Syrian Minister refused to be silenced and did eventually finish his speech.”
Regarding some of the other instances of UN censorship of Ambassador al-Ja’afari, in that same article I wrote: “Correspondent Nizar Abboud…says the cuts are not due to ‘technical problems,’ but instead often done ‘by senior officials at the United Nations.’ Matthew Lee, a journalist with Inner City Press (ICP) reported on an April 5, 2012 feed cut, noting that the speeches of the then Special Envoy for Syria, Kofi Annan, as well as the (Qatari) President of the General Assembly (GA) and Ban Ki-moon were all broadcast on UN television. However, ‘just as Syria’s Permanent Representative Bashar Ja’afari took the floor to respond, UN TV went dark. When the session was over several Permanent Representatives were critical of what they called ‘the PGA’s use of the UN for Qatar’s foreign policy.’ … The Syrian Ambassador was again cut out of the feed on June 18, 2014. ICP’s Lee reported that on June 20 he was told by the same Dujarric regarding the June 7 cut that [in Lee’s words], in fact the error in 2012 was been [sic] to allow Ja’afari to speak AT ALL on UN TV. He said the arrangement was that Ban and the Qatari PGA could speak, then the UN TV was supposed to go off.’ Following the June 2014 Syrian elections, international representatives who had observed the elections in Syria convened at the UN to report back. Roughly five minutes in, after Ambassador al-Ja’afari had opened the meeting and thanked the Secretariat for facilitating it, the webcast feed was cut. Ironically, the Ambassador had stressed he wanted to leave ‘enough time to give you the right picture of the Syrian landscape that was prevailing during elections. They are eyewitnesses.’”
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